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Idaho studies mackinaw hook-release survival rates at Priest Lake

FISHING — How many of the lake trout die after being caught from the depths of Priest Lake and released?

Idaho Fish and Game Department fisheries biologists have launched a study to find out.

The study survival rates will help biologists understand whether mortality of caught and released fish is high enough to be an issue of concern, said Jim Fredericks, department regional fisheries biologist in Coeur d'Alene.

"Lake trout are typically found near the bottom of relatively deep lakes, often in 100-200 feet of water," he noted. "When brought to the surface from such depths by anglers, they sometimes get a fishy version of the bends.  The pressure change causes a condition in the fish known as barotrauma in the scientific world.

"As many species of fish, lake trout have an internal air bladder that helps them regulate buoyancy.  When a fish swims from deep to shallow water, it naturally expels air from the bladder, just as a scuba diver releases air from a dive vest.  Deepwater dwelling fish can have difficulty expelling air when pulled from depth by anglers, causing over-inflated gas bladders."

Extensive research has been conducted on the effects of barotrauma on survival of caught-and-released marine species, but little has been done on lake trout, he said. 

Research based on angler creel surveys conducted on Priest Lake in 2014-2015 indicate that fishermen release about a third of the lake trout they land. "What is less certain is the number of fish that die after being released," Fredericks said. 

"If the number released that die turns out to be a small percentage, then it really is not a concern," he said, noting that management considerations would be made if the number is high.

"With the help of volunteer anglers, IDFG will be capturing up to 200 lake trout in early May. The fish will be released into a large pen anchored in Indian Creek Bay.  Each fish will be individually tagged to enable the biologists to record the depth of capture.  Once released, the size of the pen will allow the fish to return back to a depth of 100 feet.  After about a week, the pen will be pulled and the fate of the fish will be evaluated."

The study is part of a much larger lake trout-related research effort that began in 2013 as the agency develops a long-term management plan for the Priest Lake fishery. 

Researchers did a large-scale population assessment in 2013 using commercial-scale netting equipment. An angler creel survey conducted over the past year has provided an estimate of how many lake trout, kokanee and other species are caught and harvested or released in a given year.

  • Updates on several Priest Lake fishers studies will be presented by Idaho Fish and Game Department fisheries staff at 7 p.m. on May 27 at the Senior Center in Priest River.

Mercury warning issued for Flathead lake trout

FISHING — After years of trying to convince anglers to catch and kill more mackinaw, this…

Montana, CSKT issue warnings on mercury levels in Flathead Lake trout
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks issued consumption advisories for lake trout pulled from Flathead Lake due to mercury levels in the fish, with the advisories urging consumers not eat lake trout larger than 30 inches, and that children and women who are of child-bearing age not eat lake trout longer than 26 inches.

Angler pulls huge mack through ice at Priest Lake

FISHING — Micah Smith caught this huge mackinaw while ice fishing at Priest Lake on Saturday, says lakeside reporter Pecky Cox in her As the Lake Churns blog.  No other details, however.

Most lake trout caught by ice fishermen are in the 3- to 6-pound range.  This one looks 20-plus.

IFG ends first round of lake trout sampling at Priest Lake

FISHING — More than 4,000 lake trout were caught and handled — most of them released — during the first phase of a Priest Lake fisheries assessment that ended May 17, the Idaho Fish and Game Department reports.

Most of those lake trout were tagged and released, but 27 percent were killed.

Here are the numbers pertaining to lake trout:

  • 4,071, total netted by commercial fishermen, including 88 recaptured trout.
  • 2957, tagged and released.
  • 1,114, killed:
    • 696, killed in netting or handling.
    • 418, sacrificed for age and diet research.

In addition, the project captured 3 bull trout, 1 kokanee, 95 suckers, 11 whitefish, and 22 pikeminnow—all of which were released alive, said Jim Fredericks, IFG regional fisheries manager.  

"I understand that the netting project is troubling to many people, but I’d like to stress three things," he said.
  1. The number of fish handled and killed in the assessment is a very small portion of the overall population.  Annual angler harvest has ranged from 15-30 thousand, so an additional 1,100 fish is not a significant impact to the population.
  2. The netting effort this spring was an assessment, not a suppression effort.  Over the next five years we will continue biological and social assessments as we develop a long-term management plan for Priest and Upper Priest lakes.  This will not be done without extensive public involvement.
  3. This effort represents the first comprehensive assessment of the lake trout population on Priest Lake – ever!  Not only will this give us some understanding of population size, but it will provide a wealth of information regarding age, growth rates, angler harvest rates, along with age/size structure of the population.  These are extremely valuable pieces of information regardless of how the population will be managed in long term.  
Researchers from the University of Idaho this summer will analyze the data, including lab work to identify stomach contents.
"We’ve had several anglers turn in tags from lake trout they caught this spring," Fredericks said. "These tag returns will help immensely with the population assessment, so if you do encounter one, please take the time to call the toll free telephone number and report your catch." 

Surprising predator gets some blame for killing Yellowstone Park elk calves

WILDLIFE — Which predator gets the blame for poor survival of elk calves in Yellowstone National Park?

A. Gray wolf.

B. Grizzly bear.

C. Lake trout.

Answer:  All of the above.

Check out the Billings Gazette story on the latest suprising research — which shouldn't be all that surprising to wildlife enthusiasts who understand the complex ways nature is connected.

Mack a big treat at Loon Lake on opening day

FISHING — Chris Larson, known to some as the "Fishing Queen," caught this mackinaw, estimated at 16-17 pounds, at Loon Lake on Saturday, opening day of the lowland lake fishing season.

"It was something watching her reel to no avail as we were blown across the lake for 30 minutes," said Jeff Colliton. "Leaded line and a lure that was questionable did the trick.  I have tried to fish for Mack's a couple times but really did not know what I was doing.  My family had a couple cabins on Loon when I was growing up and I always heard the stories of these guys but this is the first I have seen up close and personal.

"By the way, I almost knocked it off with my first pass of the net. 

 Footnote on Larson: "She has already filled both her turkey tags for the spring, too."

Anglers divided on macks or kokes at Priest Lake

FISHING – As a divisive debate on managing nonnative lake trout with native cutthroats and popular kokanee at Priest Lake continues, Idaho Fish and Game officials will hold a public meeting Thursday (Feb. 28) in Priest River.

Biologists will present their evaluation of the fisheries and the results of opinion surveys starting at 7 p.m. at the Priest River Senior Center, 339 W. Jackson Center.

Agency researchers already have contracted with commercial boats to survey lake trout populations using gillnets this spring.

Lake trout, also called mackinaw, have dominated the Priest Lake fishery since they overpopulated the lake in the 1980s, collapsing the kokanee and bull trout populations, IFG biologists say. 

While the lake trout fishery has become popular with many anglers, other fishermen would prefer restoration of a kokanee, bull trout and cutthroat fishery, said Jim Fredericks, IFG regional fishery manager.

Bringing back kokanee and native fisheries would require gillnetting and angler incentives to significantly reduce the lake trout population, similar to what’s been done in recent years at Lake Pend Oreille.

Anglers are almost equally polarized in the debate, Fredericks said.

Lake trout are prolific, inexpensive to manage and provide a steady fishing opportunity, he said.

On the other hand, lake trout tend to dominate systems at the expense of other species, and they’re not as valuable to the recreation economy as kokanee, he said.

Record mackinaw handled like a baby

FISHING — Getting a record fish weighed and verified isn't as easy as one might think.  Certified scales are rare. Fish quickly begin loosing ounces after they are killed. 

Phil Coylar of Wenatchee got some great advice as he came to the dock at Lake Chelan with a mackinaw he knew was a state-record candidate on Monday: Head for the local hospital, a fishing guide told him.

Luckily the hospital staff was as excited about his fish as he was.

Click continue reading for the story from the Wenatchee World.

Pending state record mackinaw landed at Lake Chelan

FISHING — A 35-pound, 10-ounce pending state record lake trout was caught Monday in Lake Chelan by Phil Colyar of Wenatchee, according to a report on Northwestern Outdoors Radio.

The current official state record mackinaw also was caught in Lake Chelan — a 35-pound, 7-ounce fish caught in 2001.

Colyar, a Spokane native, told The Spokesman-Review this morning that he cut his teeth on fishing at Spokane County lakes before moving to an angler's paradise, where he takes full advantage of the upper Columbia salmon and steelhead runs and Lake Chelan's underrated lake trout fishery.

Fast facts:

The fish: 35 pound, 10 ounce lake trout (or Mackinaw).
Tale of the tape: 44.5 inches long, 28-inch girth.
The angler: Phil Colyar, 56, of Wenatchee. Colyar moved to Wenatchee in 1983 from his native Spokane, where he was graduated from Shadle Park High School. (His wife, Carrie, was a graduate of Mead High School.) The Colyars own a jewelry store in Wenatchee.
Date Caught / Location: Feb. 4, 2013 at Lake Chelan, near the Yacht Club.
Tactics: Trolling a newly bought U20 MPPT (Purple and Pink) Flatfish. Depth: 270 feet.
Other Gear: Lamiglas 8 1/2 foot rod, Abu Garcia Level Wind Reel, Maxima 18-pound line.

Lake trout to be netted for study at Priest Lake

FISHING – Coinciding with a debate about future management of the Priest Lake mackinaw fishery, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is joining a comprehensive study of the lake trout population.

The University of Idaho College of Natural Resources and the Kalispel Tribe will help in estimating the number of lake trout in Priest Lake and identifying growth and survival rates and food habits. 

Large-scale commercial netting equipment will be used, similar to that being used in Lake Pend Oreille.  From March through May, deepwater trapnets and short-duration set gillnets will be used to capture, measure, and mark lake trout with an individually numbered tag. 

A portion of the fish will be killed for age and stomach analysis but many fish will be marked and released in the lake so more data can be obtained from the anglers who catch them.

Public meetings on managing Priest Lake mackinaw are planned for late February, IFG officials said.

 Read on for more details from an IDFG media release.

Priest Lake fisherman finds wakeboarder’s missing finger inside large lake trout

S-R reporter Scott Maben has a rather amazing story today: A fisherman on Priest Lake hauled in a large lake trout on Sept. 11, and when he began cleaning it, he found what looked like a human finger. It's since been positively identified - it's one of four digits a Colbert, Wash. software developer lost in a wakeboarding accident on the lake back in June, when a looped line sheared off part of two fingers and all of two others. A sheriff's detective reported that the finger was in remarkably good condition; you can read Maben's full story here at spokesman.com.

Priest Lake mackinaw gives fisherman the finger

FISHING — Good fishermen always check the stomach contents of their fish to see what they've been eating, but few have had to drop the task at hand, go to the police and have the contents FINGER PRINTED to find out the source of the feed!

Read S-R reporter Scott Maben's story from Priest Lake, Idaho.

Pend Oreille “State of the Lake” fisheries meeting Feb. 22

FISHING — The Lake Pend Oreille Fishery Recovery Task Force and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will update the status of trout and kokanee in Lake Pend Oreille at the annual “State of the Lake” public meeting next week.

to discuss the status of fish populations in Lake Pend Oreille, the progress of the fishery recovery effort, and potential rule changes for 2013. 

The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday Feb. 22 at the Ponderay Events Center by the Bonner Mall north of Sandpoint. 

Wisconsin-based lake trout expert Mike Hansen will offer his perspective on the progress of the program to control lake trout and restore the Pend Oreilee kokanee fishery. 

Presentations will summarize the 2011 predator removal efforts, including lake trout netting, telemetry, and the Angler Incentive Program, and the response of the lake’s fishery to the recovery effort. 

Info: (208) 769-1414. 

Chelan macks produce; Upper Columbia salmon spotty

SALMON FISHING — The latest observations on upper Columbia salmon fishing from Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service include a digression to point out that mackinaw fishing continues to be great at Lake Chelan, as one can see above in the form of a 21 pounder in the hands of Jolene Rhoads of Spangle.

Meantime, "Salmon fishing on the Upper Columbia has been spotty at best," Jones said.

"Everything we have heard indicates that the lack of a thermal barrier at the mouth of the Okanogan River has made for very slow salmon fishing. Below Wells Dam, it has been a bit better, but the inconsistent releases from the dam have played hobb with our fishing."

Flathead’s Spring Mack Days paying $150K to anglers

FISHING — The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have pooled up to $150,000 in cash prizes for this year's Flathead Lake Spring Mack Days fishing tournament in an effort to entice more anglers and reduce the lake trout population.

The competition runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from March 11 through May 22.

Preregister online.

Info: (406) 883-2888 ex. 7289.